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Europe pressures Israel to attend UN Human Rights Council session

January 30, 2014 at 10:00 am

Germany’s Foreign Minister has urged Benjamin Netanyahu to attend a UN Human Rights Council hearing next Tuesday. Guido Westerwelle warned the Israeli prime minister that if Israel boycotts the UNHRC session it would cause “significant political damage to itself and its allies”.

Haaretz newspaper said that the letter is part of the international pressure on Israel to convince Netanyahu’s government to appear before the Council in Geneva. Former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman announced in March that Israel will boycott the UNHRC. The right-wing extremist’s threat followed the council’s decision to form an international investigative committee to look at Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The UN hearing is part of an international review of human rights in member countries. If Israel refuses to attend, it will be the first country to boycott the review, which will subject it to international criticism for setting a precedent and inciting countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea to refuse to appear before the Council in the future.

According to Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Zeev Elkin, Israel will cooperate with the Council on two conditions: “The first is to accept Israel as a full member of Council’s Western countries and the second is to review the human rights status in Israel and the West Bank in separate sessions.” European countries who seek to persuade Israel to attend the UNHRC review tend in any case to accept that first condition.